Great ResignationDiversity and InclusionCompensationCEO DailyCFO DailyModern Board

raceAhead: Michael Ferro Out At Tronc

March 20, 2018, 8:25 PM UTC
Key Speakers At The 2016 Milken Conference
Photograph by Bloomberg via Getty Images

Yesterday, Michael Ferro, the chairman of Tronc, which publishes the Chicago Tribune and the New York Daily News, among other titles, abruptly announced his retirement. In the wake of the announcement, Fortune published this must-read story that includes the accounts of two women, both of whom sought investment or partnership from Ferro, who say he made unwanted sexual advances toward them.

My colleagues in inclusion, Beth Kowitt and Kristen Bellstrom, had been tracking the story for some time, and the quality of their reporting shines through.

The Muse CEO and co-founder Kathryn Minshew and former Ingersoll Rand executive Hagan Kappler share their accounts in extraordinary detail while painting a clear picture of what happens when women are kept from the kinds of interactions that are essential for building a business.

From Kristen’s Broadsheet post on the story:

“[T]heir stories unfold outside the 9-to-5, in the world of late-night dinners and after-work drinks, the place where so much of alliance-building and deal-making really happens. It can be treacherous terrain for women, but to reject it closes us off from many of the true drivers of business: connections, mentorship, capital.”

Kowitt and Bellstrom reached out to Ferro last week for comment on the women’s accounts. Ferro declined to be interviewed via a spokesperson and did not address or dispute the allegations. (Today’s updated statement is similarly unrevealing.)

While the timing of his resignation is noteworthy, the story makes it clear that the allegations come as no surprise to the many people who have watched Ferro’s controversial rise as a dealmaker, media mogul, investor and “player” in every sense of the word. Kowitt and Bellstrom leave no stone unturned in service of confirming and understanding the accounts of the women and the many others who have been impacted by Ferro’s behavior. Their work puts his character in stark relief.

Minshew, who was seeking investment capital for her then 14-person company, reported feeling ashamed, humiliated and rattled by the ordeal, now says the time is right to speak up.

From the story:

Minshew says talking about her experience with other women helped—and revealed just how many women have a similar story. Yet at the time, [four years ago] she didn’t feel like publicly naming Ferro was a real option. “Four years ago, I felt like I would completely be closed out of any venture capital if investors saw me as someone who named names.”

She’s coming forward now because she believes that’s beginning to change. Says Minshew: “Do I think the venture community now is fully embracing this? No. But there is a substantial minority of investors who are genuinely committed to resolving the issue and some of them are powerful enough that they’re starting to have real impact.”

On Point

Note to all-male boards: We are coming for youThis is the message from a major pension fund who is expected to announce tomorrow that they will oppose the re-election of all directors of corporate boards without a single woman member. The Wall Street Journal’s Joann Lublin is breaking the news that the New York State Common Retirement Fund, the third-biggest U.S. public pension fund, will be acting on “its growing impatience with the pace of progress on gender diversity” in boardrooms. Among the companies in their crosshairs are TransDigm Group Inc., Seaboard Corp.and Sonic Automotive Inc. According to governance researchers, boards of companies on the Russell 3000 index won’t reach gender parity until 2048.Wall Street Journal

Note to all white venture capitalists: You can keep your cash
Sensing a pattern? A loose coalition of some 400 entrepreneurs and executives have banded together in a new alliance called Founders for Change, with the specific purpose of encouraging the venture industry to diversify. Among the more established names are the CEOs of Airbnb, Dropbox, Lyft and Stitch Fix. The ask is simple – make sure a woman of any hue and/or a person of color of any gender is on your team and able to write a check or we’ll exclude you from consideration. It worked last year for co-founders Trevor McFedries and Sara DeCou, who are black and Latina, respectively. “It was counterintuitive for us to raise money from a bunch of white guys who want to extract all the value from the world,” said McFedries. “We’re interested in reshaping the way that tech looks.”
New York Times

Why are black students punished more than white ones?
This is the question facing a Minneapolis school district where at one middle school African-American students are 338 percent more likely to be suspended than their white peers. District-wide, black students are 41 percent of the overall student population but were 76 percent of the suspensions. Obama-era policies designed to address such racial disparities in school discipline are coming under attack in the Trump administration, and the tension is roiling an already divided school district. At odds are dueling groups of lobbyists, advocating for and against federal discipline guidelines, some of whom are attempting to link “relaxed” disciplinary policy with the Parkland shooting. A must read.
New York Times

Will the first Native American woman be elected to Congress in 2018?
Deb Haaland, a Democratic candidate in New Mexico’s First District, has a real shot. She’s one of at least four indigenous women running for Congress in 2018; and with three more bidding for governors’ offices and another 31 running for state legislative seats, it’s turning out to be a record year. While Native candidates are coming from both parties and many perspectives, the desire to remedy long-time marginalization is an important unifying factor. “American Indians have been invisible for so long, in so many sectors in society,” said Denise Juneau, a statewide officeholder from Montana. “To be able to make inroads in the political world is huge.”
New York Times

The Woke Leader

Ending sexual violence against low wage workers
Bernice Yeung, a journalist from The Center for Investigative Reporting discusses her new book,  In a Day’s Work: The Fight to End Sexual Violence Against America’s Most Vulnerable Workers  in this devastating interview with WNYC’s Brian Lehrer. Yeung has been working with a team of reporters since 2012, investigating the terrible experiences reported by agriculture workers, janitors, and domestic caretakers. The team started with one complaint of a farm worker who was regularly raped by her supervisor, and quickly found that the situation is widespread across the country. “It’s been an open secret for decades,” says Yeung. Low-wage workers are uniquely vulnerable to assault and often have no access to any sort of support; worse, if women make it to the court system, they’re often disbelieved or discredited. But there is some hope – Yeung’s suggestions to help vulnerable women find their #MeToo justice starts at the 11:40 mark.

Twitter sleuths track down an uncredited black woman scientist
It unfolded on Twitter, a breathless collective project on the trail of a sepia-toned mystery: Who was this unidentified woman in a group photo taken at the International Conference on the Biology of Whales in 1971? While it sounds like a random question, the implication was profound. Candace Jean Andersen an illustrator planning to write a picture book about a related subject, became intrigued by the photo, a sea of white male faces with one young brown female one partially obscured. Every scientist was named but the mystery woman, a perfect example of the erasure of the work of women and people of color. “Hey Twitter I’m on a mission,” she tweeted. Turns out the object of her search, Sheila Minor Huff, is alive and well, though surprised to be in the spotlight. Click through for her own “hidden figures” tale of glory.
New York Times

The truth about transitioning as an athlete
Transgender women were, until recently, uniformly banned from competitive sport. Though the International Olympic Committee helped widen the door in 2004, athletes still face humiliating testing procedures and serious misconceptions about what it means to be transgender. (For starters, transgender women are not just disguised burly men aiming to colonize the medal stands in female-focused competitions.) This profile of Natalie Washington, a seventh division soccer/football player in England, helps illuminate the truth of transitioning while athletic. In addition to managing her hormonal health, she had to deal with her changing capacity. “I'm much less able to compete physically than I was. I was never strong before, but I have even less upper body strength now," she says.


He leaned towards me and put his face inches from mine. 'You have the aura of election upon you,' he breathed ... The next thing I knew, his heavy, boneless hand was hot on my thigh. I lurched away ... The floor spun. By now my back was against the sink. He came at me. I turned away toward the sink and found myself vomiting in shock. Bloom disappeared.
Naomi Wolf